Digital Transformation and Decision-making

Stephen DeAngelis

August 28, 2018

The final verse in Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” talks about the importance of decisions. According to Frost, the right decision makes “all the difference.” Good decisions make a difference in life and in business. Consistently good decision-making is grounded in facts not based on intuition. Business strategist, Myles Suer (@MylesSuer), observes, “It has become increasingly clear that organizations creating a sustainable right to win have the trustworthy, timely data at their fingertips that they need to make transformative business decisions.”[1] Bain analysts, Michael C. Mankins and Lori Sherer (), note decision making is one of the most important aspects of any business. “The best way to understand any company’s operations,” they write, “is to view them as a series of decisions.”[2] They add, “Companies that make better decisions, make them faster and execute them more effectively than rivals nearly always turn in better financial performance. Not surprisingly, companies that employ advanced analytics to improve decision making and execution have the results to show for it.”


Data and Decision-making


In order to make a decision, one must have a choice between two or more options. The more information you have about the options the more rational the decision will be. Frederic Laluyaux (@flaluyaux), CEO and President of Aera Technology, observes that decision-making is an executive function. He explains, “Executive function consists of being able to deal with a complex issue, often with conflicting needs and data and to generate options through logic, rationality, causal analysis and experience.”[3] Laluyaux believes the next step in digital transformation involves cognitive technologies (aka cognitive computing) assuming some of the executive function. One reason cognitive systems are a good fit for the executive function is that they can deal with ambiguous situations. Jenna Hogue explains, “The types of problems [involved in cognitive computing] … tend to be much more complex and human-like than the average non-cognitive system. These problems tend to comprise multiple different variables included, shifting data elements, and an ambiguous nature.”[4] In other words, cognitive systems can provide insights and make judgments about complex and ambiguous options. The process, however, begins with data.


The Big Data Era is filled with risks, opportunities, possibilities, and challenges. Nick Ismail (@ishers123) explains, “The sheer volume of insight generated by big data was considered a prerequisite for accurate decision-making. It brought gigabytes and terabytes to mainstream parlance, while signaling a whole new era of data handling and management with greater complexity and opportunity in terms of application. However, as this data overload became the new norm, our expectations evolved to demand a more strategic approach to how we can derive greater value from the intelligence flooding our systems.”[5] It quickly became clear that mining the gold in big data could not be done manually. Alexandre Bilger (@alexbilger), President and CEO at Sinequa, observes, “Over the last several years, data analytics has become a driving force for organizations wanting to make informed decisions about their businesses and their customers. … Many organizations now understand the value of extracting relevant information from their enterprise data and using it for better decision-making, superior customer service and more efficient management. But to realize their highest potential in this space, organizations will have to evolve from being ‘data-driven’ to being ‘information-driven’.”[6]


Decision-making and Advanced Analytics


Advanced analytics are the tools used to turn data into knowledge. Ismail notes, “The use of advanced analytics is enabling us to do more with less data. This move increasingly underpins higher operating margins and ultimately creates a competitive advantage.” Most every business executive now realizes the importance of advanced analytics for their business. As I wrote in a previous article, “The truth of the matter is so many organizations are now leveraging Big Data and advanced analytics that finding an edge is becoming increasingly difficult. Sam Ransbotham (@Ransbotham), David Kiron (@DavidKiron1), and Pamela Kirk Prentice (@pamelakprentice) assert, ‘Competitive advantage with analytics is waning. The percentage of companies that report obtaining a competitive advantage with analytics has declined significantly. … Increased market adoption of analytics levels the playing field and makes it more difficult for companies to keep their edge.’ You could say, advanced analytics is the ante to get into today’s business game.”[7] The best cognitive computing systems include embedded, advanced analytics, which is why so many subject matter experts are predicting cognitive technologies are going to become ubiquitous in the business world. Deji Atoyebi (@deji_atoyebi), founder of Cray Visibility, bluntly states, “Today, the importance of machine learning and big data to businesses cannot be overemphasized; both are revolutionizing business operations and consistently providing lots of new opportunities.”[8]


Cognitive technologies can help transform Industrial Age companies into intelligent digital enterprises. Anup Nair, head of Technology & Architecture for Mphasis Digital, explains, “Cognitive computing, used in artificial intelligence (AI) applications, enables machines to learn from data by applying statistical models to understand patterns from occurrences over time. A competent cognitive system even has the capability to generate reasoning by accessing huge amounts of data, mimicking the way the human brain functions. … Cognitive computing holds the key to the data future. Cognitive systems are already transforming the manner in which businesses interact with their customers. In the days to come, it will become a pervasive and persuasive reality that helps brands drive workplace productivity, build better products, and deliver extremely personalized and meaningful experiences for consumers.”[9] Kalyan Kumar (@kklive), Executive Vice President of HCL Technologies, calls smart digital companies “intelligent 21st Century Enterprises.” He explains, “Digital technologies are fueling a seismic shift in the modern business landscape, driven by changing customer expectations and mounting competition from new and nimble ‘born digital’ companies. … Machine learning and cognitive computing are paving the way for automation capabilities that are hugely impacting business technology and ushering in a new generation of intelligent, outcome-based services, which lie at the heart of the 21st Century Enterprise.”[10]


Good decision-making lies at the heart of every successful business. Cognitive technologies, like Enterra’s Artificial Intelligence Learning Agent™ (AILA®), a system that can Sense, Think, Act, and Learn®, can help companies make better decisions and assist them through the digital transformation process. Because they can learn and adapt, cognitive systems can help companies remain relevant, through periods of rapid change.


[1] Myles Suer, “Why Most Manufacturers are Not Data Ready,” icrunchdata, 25 August 2015.
[2] Michael C. Mankins and Lori Sherer, “Creating value through advanced analytics,” Bain Brief, 11 February 2015.
[3] Frederic Laluyaux, “The New Edge: Unpacking Cognitive Automation,” Forbes, 28 February 2018.
[4] Jenna Hogue, “Cognitive Computing: The Hype, the Reality,” Dataversity, 12 January 2017.
[5] Nick Ismail, “Why AI-driven analytics will have the measure of the digital enterprise,” Information Age, 25 April 2018.
[6] Alexandre Bilger, “How organizations can evolve from data-driven to information-driven,” Information Management, 25 April 2018.
[7] Stephen DeAngelis, “Advanced Analytics: The Ante into Today’s Business Game,” Enterra Insights, 19 June 2018.
[8] Deji Atoyebi, “Big Data Combined With Machine Learning Helps Businesses Make Much Smarter Decisions,” Entrepreneur, 29 January 2018.
[9] Anup Nair, “Cognitive Intelligence: the Next Wave of Business,” RT Insights, 11 June 2017.
[10] Kalyan Kumar, “Will you be part of the dawn of the intelligent 21st century enterprise?ITProPortal, 3 July 2016.